Adolescent Friendships & Lifestyles Study 2.0: Understanding declines in smoking, drinking and drug use in young people's lives.

Adolescent smoking, drinking and drug use have declined dramatically over the past 15–20 years in Aotearoa New Zealand and other OECD countries. This international trend is poorly understood despite its public health importance. The large and unprecedented decline in substance use is youth-specific and sits alongside international declines in teen pregnancy, juvenile crime and dangerous driving.

What is driving this trend is largely unknown. This leaves policy makers and researchers struggling to influence further positive change or prevent future reversals in the trend. Understanding the drivers of the declining substance use among Māori teens is particularly important as gaps between Māori and non-Māori remain stark, and the findings may inform health promotion efforts.

In this qualitative study we will investigate the possible contribution of the changing functions and meanings of substance use in adolescents' lives. We will compare archival interview data collected at the peak of adolescent substance use 20 years ago, with contemporary data collected for this study.

The interviews cover friendships, lifestyle, and perceptions about substance use and non-use. They aim to address questions such as whether other practices (social media and gaming for example) are fulfilling the social functions that substance use once did (such as projecting a 'cool' or 'grown up' identity, bonding with friends and meeting new people).

Details, including findings, are available on the project website.


Royal Society (2021)

Te Apārangi Marsden Fast Start Grant (2000)

Lead investigator

Jude Ball

Link to study website

Adolescent Friendships Study, Research, University of Otago, Wellington, University of Otago, New Zealand